CSOs ask government to review the HIV prevention and treatment act

Civil Society Organizations in the fight against HIV/AIDS have re-embarked on the need to review the HIV Prevention and Treatment Act of Uganda passed in 2014.

Addressing the media, the CSOs highlighted that more Ugandans continue to languish in prisons after being Incarcerated using the current law.

The CSOs under the HIV/AIDS Coalition petitioned the High Court in 2016 challenging the then just passed HIV legislation which they argued would discourage many Ugandans from testing for HIV/AIDS because of the fear of finding themselves on the wrong side of the law; years later their petition is still on the table.

Lilian Mworeko, the Executive Director International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, argues that more Ugandans are in cells and prisons because of this unfair law.

She says that, "We now appeal to parliamentarians to intervene, since this is only deterring the fight to end HIV by 2030." 

Their meeting was sparked off by a court ruling that sentenced Sylvia Komuhangi, a teacher by profession, to two years in jail after her host family suspected her of contaminating their baby with HIV/AIDS.

On December 27, 2018, Komuhangi was arrested and charged at Kitgum Magistrate’s Court with the offence of committing a “negligent act likely to spread disease contrary to Section 171 of the Penal Code Act of the Republic of Uganda.”

During her trial, at the Magistrate’s Court, the prosecution stated that at about 9pm on December 26, 2018, Komuhangi carried the alleged victim away from her babysitter to the bedroom and then returned later, with the baby crying.

The prosecution continued that when the mother, Eunice Lakot, examined her baby, she found swellings in both armpits. She took the baby to Kitgum hospital for diagnosis, where doctors reportedly confirmed that the swellings were caused by injections. Consequently, a medical professional tested Komuhangi for HIV, and she was found positive. Next, the child was given Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), an antiretroviral medication that prevents infection to anyone exposed to HIV during the first ninety-six hours. Subsequently, Komuhangi was arrested.

Komuhangi says that because she was a visitor in Kitgum securing bond was impossible since she had no sureties and money to a tune of 1.2 million shillings for the bond.

Dr Stephen Watiti an HIV/AIDS activist, says Komuhangi was in prison because of her HIV status. She would regain her freedom on August 29, 2019 after months of trial and stress that also saw her conviction overturned after a hard fight.

To date, 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have passed laws criminalising HIV transmission or exposure in some form, including Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Uganda, which passed laws in the last year. There has also been a rise in reported prosecutions in sub-Saharan Africa since 2015, in Botswana, South Africa, Uganda and especially Zimbabwe.

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